Hooliganism hurts the quality of life in Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Hooliganism hurts the quality of life in Nevada City

Although a typical City Council agenda in Nevada City tends to focus on issues of growth, historic preservation, architectural styles, personal whims, traffic impacts and budgetary matters, I believe the biggest quality-of-life issue facing our community right now is the escalation of petty (and sometimes not so petty) vandalism and destruction of public and private property by a small group of hooligans hellbent on committing senseless crimes against people they don’t even know. But if you’re a resident or merchant in Nevada City, you can help squelch this disturbing trend.

Our police department does a fantastic job, but they are s small force matched against an ever-growing band of druggies, drunks and roving marauders who wander through downtown and the neighborhoods displaying no sense of respect for anybody or anything. The police have over a square mile of land to cover, and they can’t be in every quadrant of the town at the same time, especially when only one officer is on duty.

I’m an advocate for more police officers, but I’m also an advocate for increased public works support and help for our administrative staff. Unfortunately, the coffers at City Hall are essentially bare; the money is not available to significantly help any city department at this time. (I’m embarrassed by the pittance we give our employees in the way of periodic wage increases, but that’s a column for another day.)

Nevada City has a reputation for tolerating alternative lifestyles, and for that we should all be proud. We enjoy a wonderful and refreshing egalitarian social structure (or, more accurately, lack of structure), so it’s not unusual to walk into a local saloon and find a well-heeled professional and a struggling artist rolling dice for a round of drinks. Sure, the guy in the suit may be drinking top-shelf scotch and the artist is holding firm to a bottle of Budweiser, but there’s no class distinction when it comes to bar stools and a friendly game of liar’s dice in Nevada City.

And there’s no class distinction when it comes to electing folks to the City Council. (The current council includes a video store manager, photographer, retired architect, pharmacist and a hotel night clerk.)

An egalitarian tolerance and appreciation for all variety of lifestyles is one thing, but vicious and indiscriminate vandalism – often driven by drug use – is unacceptable to me and to several people I have talked to in recent weeks. There has been some buzz about organizing neighborhood watches, with citizens on the streets at night with cameras and cell phones for immediate calls to the police dispatcher. And maybe that time has arrived.

Above all else, however, if you are a resident or merchant in Nevada City, you must be willing to help. Do not be intimidated. And it’s very important that your city manager, police chief and council members know what you expect for the tax dollars you pay.

If you think that our community’s reputation for tolerance should extend to illegal acts and that the police should tread lightly with regard to drugs, drunks and destruction of both private and public property, let us know. If you think the ongoing escalation of vandalism and property damage is nothing more than a long tradition of innocent rebellious behavior by a few misguided individuals, let us know. If you think the police should ratchet up a bit (recognizing the rights guaranteed under the 14th Amendment and other relevant laws), let us know. If you think we should find room in our budget for another police officer, or an undercover cop to infiltrate the marauders and druggies, let us know.

You (the citizens) are at the top of Nevada City’s chain of command, and it is through your input that we formulate policies based on your preferences. We (the City Council) are there to serve you and give direction to our professional staff that reflects your preferences. Believe it or not, local government is really that simple.

But in addition to giving us your input, please keep a watchful eye on your neighborhood. Have the courage to report crimes when you see them occur, or if you think they’re about to occur. If you’re a merchant, be observant both inside and outside your business. If something doesn’t look right, call the police and ask for someone to drop by. Will they get there in one minute every time you call for help? No. But they will respond as quickly as they can with the human resources available. And if you are willing to pay for more resources, let us know that, too. You might even have an idea about how we can pay for additional resources.

Don’t call 911 unless it’s an emergency, but don’t hesitate to use the emergency number when you feel it’s appropriate. To report suspicious behavior, call 265-2626 – the direct line to the police station. Keep the number next to your telephone. When the station is closed, the calls are automatically redirected to the sheriff’s dispatcher, so you can use that number at all times.

All of us on the City Council are committed to ensuring that Nevada City remains the envy of all other small towns in the nation. Staff shares that commitment, I assure you. But we need your input.

Steve Cottrell is a member of the City Council in Nevada City.

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